As we prepare for the India Communication Summit 2022, a special series has been introduced. “My Experiences with Public Relations” brings together the opinions and experience of senior marketing executives from various industries. It aims to bring our readers insights into how marketers view the PR industry and leverage communications to overcome challenges.
In this issue, we feature Rahul Deorah, Chief Marketing Officer of Apna.
What are the main public relations challenges your industry is currently facing?
Public relations is a constantly evolving and very dynamic discipline. As such, there are bound to be challenges and opportunities aplenty. One of the most important of these is the changing definition of public relations that we all need to absorb and soon. Not so long ago, public relations was limited to press releases, newspapers, magazines and other offline publications. Today, there has been a paradigm shift, thanks to the accelerated digitization the country has witnessed, which many have attributed to the pandemic. Public relations is now more about online reputation management through social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Real-time engagement is key today, as consumers want direct and frequent real-time communication from brands. Trust and transparency are equally important. Young consumers under the age of 25, PAN India is spearheading this shift as they rely almost solely on social media to keep up to date with everything from news to brands.
The recent purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk is a stunning example of this change. He bought a platform with over 217 million monetizable daily active users on Twitter and not a newspaper or magazine.
Another challenge is not to treat public relations as a stand-alone function. Public relations today has found its rightful place in the boardroom as a strategic and holistic function. Public relations is an integral part of the marketing mix and is tied to the larger brand story. It is imperative that brands understand and apply this.
At its core, it’s about building a credible relationship with our customers. Due to the pandemic catching us off guard, companies and brands have scaled back campaigns, launches, field events and partnerships. Now, as businesses gradually open up, communication media are also following. As such, there is an urgent need for innovation to stand out from the rest, even in terms of communication efforts.
How do you, as CMO, plan to leverage public relations as a weapon to meet these challenges?
Public relations is a medium that has a specific objective, which is to build trust between a brand and its customers. Today’s informed consumer wants to know more about the brand and then decide if they want to buy your product or service. It’s not just about having a great product, but about being a brand the consumer trusts and connects with on a deeper personal level. Therefore, brands need to leverage public relations to get their key messages across to build trust.
We also often realign our strategies to reach our consumers, spread across the more than 70 cities we serve. For example, a majority of our audience is located beyond metropolitan cities where traditional media is the trusted source of communication. We use a well-designed PR strategy to penetrate hitherto untapped cities. For this, we used vernacular publications as a powerful tool to maximize our reach. Moreover, our integrated communication approach (offline and online) helps us to generate the right result and improve the reach and awareness of the company.
We effectively used digital tools and reached our target audience through micro-influencers in various parts of the country with a well-tailored campaign – #ApnaKaamAyega. This campaign showcases our creative abilities and highlights an exciting way to engage with our customers and empower them. We use public relations as a way to connect with our users, educate them and build trust. Public relations has also helped us build and maintain relationships with media publications and key stakeholders, which is critical given the changing media landscape.
Is public relations only there for crisis management or can it be used to achieve long-term goals?
The scope, scale and range of public relations is gigantic, crisis management is only a small part of it. Public relations plays a key role in achieving long-term goals. Not everything we do will make the headlines, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re important to our consumers and our brand.
We have a team that helps create conversations around our 3Ps (people, processes and products/services) on a sustained basis throughout the year. We also pay equal attention to strengthening our relationships with our employees and here too public relations plays an important role. Employees are your biggest brand advocates because they can tell your story like no one else ever can. We want our employees to be proud of where they work and the services they sell.
Public relations can certainly help achieve long-term goals for the business as well as an organization’s reputation, be it external or internal audiences.
What was your experience with PR in your professional career?
It has been a rich journey of learning and experience working with our PR team. We regularly engage in brainstorming sessions and craft creative ideas and stories that have established us in the ever-changing media landscape. We use our PR tools carefully after considering changing narratives and growing workforce trends. The increase in the female workforce in our country is another vital aspect of public relations that we make sure to highlight in our campaigns. Our PR partners have always taken the time to understand our industry, our consumers, our culture and our brand.
The way we approach public relations has also changed over the years. Previously, the focus was more on numbers, such as impressions, reach, SOV, and PR value created. While these are always important, it’s also important to achieve precision in delivering the right message to the right consumer, at the right time.
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